U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #134, 98-12-08
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Tuesday, December 8, 1998
Briefer: James B. Foley
1 U.S. Congratulates People of Nigeria on Recent Elections
1 Status of UNSCOM Inspections
1-2 US-DPRK Talks Completed For Today/Resuming on Thursday in
2-3 Reported Building of Three Underground Missile Bases by
4-5 Status of Food Aid to North Korea
4,5 Improvement in Relations with U.S./Prospects for Easing
3-4 Dr. Perry's Visit to Region/Discussion of North Korea /
Proposals by President Kim
3 Reported Export of Missiles and Technology to Iran
5 Former USG Official's Call for Australian Government to
Consider Proposal to Store Weapons-Grade Plutonium from
5-6 Reported Russian Assistance to Iran in Developing BW
6-7 Reported Murder of Western Hostages in Chechnya
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
7 Dennis Ross in Region/Discussions
8 UN Secretary General Annan's Meeting in Libya
8 Travel by Assistant Secretary Indyk/Purpose/Onward Travel
8-9 Cambodia's Seat at the United Nations
9 Status of Ocalan Case
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 1998, 1:30 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. I just have one announcement that I'm going to
post. It notes our congratulations to the people of Nigeria, the Independent
National Electoral Commission, and the Government of Nigeria, for the
overall peaceful and professional conduct of local government elections on
Saturday, December 5. We obviously wish Nigeria well on its continued
transition, in view of the state, federal and presidential elections that
will take place next year: its complete transition to democracy.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about how the inspectors are doing in
MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't have a read-out of how they're doing today. Do
you mean in relation to Chairman Butler's announcement of inspections
today? I don't have that; I'd have to refer you to UNSCOM.
UNSCOM is proceeding with inspections according to its mandate. I think it
would be useful to clarify at least the language, though, which the Iraqis
have used to describe some of these inspections. For political purposes,
the Iraqis have had a habit of calling every inspection a "surprise"
inspection so that they can claim that they're giving full cooperation.
For example, when inspectors go to a site that they've been to many times
before, the Iraqis call it a "surprise" inspection only because UNSCOM
gives Iraq little or no notice before-hand. But Chairman Butler, as you saw
today, has correctly used the word "surprise" to describe a no-notice
inspection, possibly to a completely new site.
Certainly as far as UNSCOM's mandate is concerned, there's no delineation
between different types of inspections. The cardinal rule here is that
UNSCOM is mandated to inspect any time, anywhere, as it sees fit.
Now, I don't have a read-out on those inspections that are apparently
occurring today, but what I would suggest to you is that, as I indicated
yesterday, what the United States is looking forward to is Chairman
Butler's and the IAEA's report, soon, to the Security Council, on the
status and level of Iraqi cooperation.
QUESTION: As that was unproductive, could you do the Korea talks -- if
you've got something on that?
MR. FOLEY: The talks that are going on here in the building? My
understanding is that those talks have completed for today, and they are
going to resume in New York on Thursday. Perhaps we'll have more to say to
you about those serious talks later in the week, but I have nothing for you
QUESTION: Is there any progress at all to report?
MR. FOLEY: I have nothing to report on the meeting, either positively or
negatively. It's not something that we do: report on an ongoing negotiation.
I would hope that we'll be in a position to say something about those talks
when this round is completed, which may be Thursday in New York, if not
Friday, but certainly by the close of the week.
QUESTION: Why move to New York; why couldn't they continue them
MR. FOLEY: I don't know the answer to that. I think it's a minor point; I
can check for you. But it was envisaged, I can tell you that, because I've
known that for several days - that the plan was: If they didn't wrap it up
here, that they would take a day's break, presumably for consultations with
capitals, and then resume in New York. I wouldn't read anything of
importance into the change of venue. They started in New York; they
resumed here, and they're going to continue in New York.
QUESTION: So they are spilling over?
MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't read - I'm not in a position to reflect on the fact
that they're continuing into another day.
QUESTION: Right, but you would concede that, according to the schedule
you presented us, they are being extended?
MR. FOLEY: They are being extended, yes -- without reading anything into
QUESTION: The only subject is the underground installation?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Same subject: Do you have anything on this Japanese report that
the North Koreans are building three underground bases for launching
MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything new today. We were aware of this report
some weeks ago, and I can tell you what we were prepared to say several
weeks ago, when that happened. But I have nothing sort of in response to
the question that was raised yesterday.
We've noted on several previous occasions that North Korea's missile
proliferation activities are of serious concern to the United States. The
DPRK has been producing/exporting Scud missiles for the past decade. It's
also well-known that the DPRK has been developing the No Dong missile with
a range of 1,000 kilometers, as well as two longer-range missiles. It's
marketed its missile technology and equipment to several countries,
including Iran, Syria and Pakistan.
These activities underscore why the US places a continuing high priority on
missile non-proliferation and is working closely with other like-minded
countries to curb the flow of missile equipment and technology worldwide.
We are vigorously pressing for restraints on North Korea's development,
deployment and export of missile equipment and technology, and have made
clear that further launches of long-range missiles, or further exports of
such missiles, or related technology, would have very negative consequences
for efforts to improve US-DPRK relations.
Now, in response to your specific question: I think it would not be
appropriate for me to comment about what we know concerning the details of
North Korea's missile development activities. I'm not in a position to do
Exports of missiles to China - to Iran, I'm sorry -- export of missiles and
technology to Iran: Has the United States raised a formal protest to the
MR. FOLEY: Let me just finish with this. I spoke at length about this
yesterday, so maybe after the briefing, I can get you what we had.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, Jim, did you answer the question about the South
Korean proposal of inducements?
MR. FOLEY: I wasn't asked.
QUESTION: Okay, well what do you think of the South Korean proposals?
MR. FOLEY: You're referring to Dr. Perry's visit?
QUESTION: Kim Dae-Jung's.
MR. FOLEY: -- and what was reported that the South Korean side had
proposed in that meeting. Let me just say that the purpose of Dr. Perry's
trip, overall, to Asia - to South Korea, China and Japan - is to gather
information, as he and his delegation conduct a comprehensive policy
They had an excellent meeting with President Kim, in which the President
described his thinking about North Korea. Dr. Perry and his delegation were
able to ask President Kim a number of questions, as part of the review.
President Kim's answers will be studied carefully.
As Dr. Perry emphasized, however, the delegation went to listen, not to
present any views of its own; and they have not come to any judgments. So
this is not something that we're going to comment on, at this stage.
QUESTION: But you ruled out compensation earlier.
MR. FOLEY: Yes, very clearly. We'll stand by that, but I think the
question has to do with larger questions, though. The compensation question
has to do, as I understand it, with the focus, in this respect, on the
access to the suspect site, where we have certainly ruled out compensation.
QUESTION: The broader issue - how to deal with North Korea: Haven't you
been down that path, though, of offering them the possibility of lifting
economic sanctions and engagement, and it hasn't worked basically?
MR. FOLEY: The US has no plans to take any further steps on easing
sanctions at this time. Certainly in the context of future developments,
were there to be: an improvement in the prospects for a permanent peace on
the Korean Peninsula in the context, therefore, of the Four-Party Talks;
also, if we were to see changes in North Korean attitudes on other issues
of concern, including the missile area, where we have separate talks, we
would be willing to look at an improved relationship between the United
States and North Korea, in which those kind of issues, including sanctions,
would be on the table.
But if you're asking me today, on the basis of this report, as to whether
we're entertaining something like that, now all I can say is, as I
indicated, that we don't have plans to take any further steps on easing
sanctions at this time. Concerning the specific proposal of President Kim,
it's something we're going to be studying. But as I said very clearly, Dr.
Perry was out in the region and continues his visit in a strictly listening
QUESTION: May I ask about food aid? What's your latest assessment on
whether or not North Korea would need more?
MR. FOLEY: I'd have to check the answer for you, for the record. I'm not
aware what the latest developments have been. As you know, we have a record
of responding favorably to appeals from the World Food Program, and we
undertook a substantial commitment to deliver increased amounts of food aid
for, I believe, calendar year 1998, which is coming to a close.
I don't know where we stand with the World Food Program's latest request,
whether there have been any in recent days and months; so I'll check the
record and get back to you if there's anything new.
QUESTION: You use the term "serious consequences" in relation to future
missile launches from North Korea. I'm wondering what that means for a
country where you have no diplomatic relations, and the only aid that we
give them is food aid, and the little bit of fuel oil money is still
stopped-up in Congress. Are you suggesting some kind of military strike or
something? What does "serious consequences" mean?
MR. FOLEY: Well, let me repeat what I said - would have very negative
consequences for efforts to improve US-DPRK relations. That is very
specific; it doesn't get into the areas that you are speculating on or
The fact is that the DPRK is seeking an improved relationship with the
United States. We're willing to entertain that possibility, if our concerns
can be addressed in the various fora in which we're negotiating.
QUESTION: You might not have anything on this, but there was an article
in The Australian today, based on an interview with Bob Gallucci, in which
he is calling on the Australian Government to open itself up to a proposal
for storing weapons-grade plutonium taken out of Russian warheads. I'm
wondering whether that's something that's being discussed here, if you
could take the question.
MR. FOLEY: I'll have to take the question; that's the first I've heard of
QUESTION: Did you see the article in the Times about Russians helping
Iran develop a biological weapons capability?
MR. FOLEY: I did.
QUESTION: Any comment?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, we do not comment on intelligence matters.
QUESTION: Is that the best you can do?
MR. FOLEY: I can do more. The US Government remains concerned about
Iranian attempts to obtain any weapons of mass destruction technology from
Russia or other countries. Russia's economic problems have negatively
affected its weapons scientific community, and we are concerned about the
possibility that scientists and engineers will be hired by Iran or other
countries of proliferation concern.
As you know, the US Government has provided over $30 million in assistance
to former Soviet bio-technology institutes from Fiscal Year '92 through '98,
through a number of programs designed to counter the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and delivery system expertise from the former
Soviet Union, and to secure weapons material. Nearly $2 million more has
been allocated for these activities in Fiscal Year '99.
I can go through with you what those programs are - there are four or five
of them, some administered by the Defense Department, some by the
Department of Energy. I believe Mr. Bacon has some more specific information
on those programs. But the ultimate aim of these programs, though, is to
help prevent the diversion of Russian expertise in this area to countries
of proliferation concern, and to help encourage the transformation of some
of this expertise from the military to the civilian mode inside Russia
QUESTION: Is there a clear understanding that the Iranians are trying to
develop biological weapons, even though they signed the 1972 convention?
MR. FOLEY: Well, first of all, let me say that the dual-use nature of
biotechnology makes it very difficult to distinguish legitimate research
from weapons research. Iran is on the US list of state sponsors of
terrorism, and is also a country which the United States believes is
developing a biological weapons capability. Therefore, any attempt by Iran
to develop such weapons will be counter to their BWC commitments.
QUESTION: Can you say whether all these programs are actually working? I
mean, if you have instances where scientists are -
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not in a position to judge - at least standing here
today - whether we believe there is any leakage. Certainly, as I indicated,
there is serious economic difficulties in Russia, and these difficulties
have impacted on scientists who work in these areas of concern. I can't
give you a judgment as to whether our assistance has helped make this
potential leakage impermeable. It's an ongoing matter of concern, and
that's why we have these programs; and these programs, I think, are well-
understood and supported in Congress, because they meet a critical US
national security interest, and so we're going to continue funding
QUESTION: One of the complaints about Iran is that they have been trying
to develop weapons of mass destruction. But I don't think you've said
specifically that the Iranians are trying to develop biological weapons.
MR. FOLEY: I just said it.
QUESTION: All right --
MR. FOLEY: Iran is on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and is
also a country the US believes is developing biological weapons capability.
QUESTION: Also, on Russia, did you have anything on - I mean, concerns
about this incident in Chechnya, where foreigners were kidnapped and then
MR. FOLEY: That's a gruesome report; I had not heard that before coming
in here. Obviously, that would be a matter of great concern, but I have not
heard the story. I'll check afterwards to see if we have any information on
QUESTION: Wye agreement: Any new intervention, mediation on the US side,
to ensure that the withdrawal does go ahead next week?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to have a lot for you on this today, with
Ambassador Ross there in the region. He's working the problem, and all the
issues related to Wye implementation, and is in touch with Secretary
Albright, who is currently in Brussels. So I don't have a lot of direct
information myself. I wouldn't make this podium the locus of authoritative
comment on that, given that the concerned officials are outside of the
country right now. But let me just say a few words.
First, that the Wye memorandum was signed and affirmed by both the
Government of Israel and the PA. As we've said before, we expect both sides
to fulfill their commitments. Certainly, as you indicate, concerns have
been expressed about implementation. That's why Ambassador Ross is there
right now. He's talking to both sides and he's going to continue to work to
facilitate the process of advancing Wye implementation.
QUESTION: What would be the impact on the Wye agreement if the Israeli
Government would fall?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to address a hypothetical question; you
know that. But let me repeat what I just said a minute ago, which is that
the Wye agreement was signed by the Government of Israel as well as the
Palestinian Authority. We expect both Israel and the PA to stand by their
commitments that were agreed to by the mandate of authorities.
QUESTION: Okay, they're not - I guess what you're saying is regardless of
the government in power, the Wye memorandum should be implemented. Is that -
MR. FOLEY: We believe the Wye memorandum should be implemented,
QUESTION: Even by successor administrations?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Is Ambassador Ross discussing further Israeli redeployments?
MR. FOLEY: Well, he's discussing all the issues pertaining to Wye
implementation. That's one of them. I don't need to go through with you the
- I see Charlie shaking his head there. By the way, it's an empty bluff -
my saying so - since I don't have the Wye memorandum at my fingertips the
way Jamie Rubin does, who was there at Wye. But it entails all kinds of
commitments according to a timetable, and certainly redeployments is
part of that.
QUESTION: Do you have a more detailed read-out on the Annan-Qadhafi
MR. FOLEY: I have nothing further on that for you today. We're still
awaiting the transfer of the suspects to The Hague.
QUESTION: Martin Indyk: I believe he's in the Middle East?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what he's doing, what his schedule is?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have his schedule at my fingertips, so we'll check
after the briefing and see if we've got more for you. I know he went to
Egypt, where there was a scheduled meeting of a US-Egyptian committee; but
I don't now what his onward travel plans, if any, are.
QUESTION: Particularly if he's going to Syria or Lebanon.
MR. FOLEY: I don't know that. We'll check. If I've got that, I'll give it
to you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Now that Cambodia has apparently reclaimed its seat at the UN,
do you expect, first of all, that the United States will resume aid; and do
you anticipate that there will be any congressional opposition to that
resumption in aid?
MR. FOLEY: I believe you asked that question last week, and I think it's
premature for us to answer. I have no change in US policy to announce.
It is true that we went along with, or voted for, the resumption of the
Cambodian seat in the United Nations, which we felt was a proper gesture to
make, following the constitution of the new government, following the
elections there. I wouldn't rule anything in, or anything out.
Certainly we haven't changed our policy on that. The aid that we do give
goes, on the one hand, for de-mining activities - which is certainly
supported in the Congress; and on the other hand, humanitarian aid is
channeled directly through NGOs. There were other categories of aid that
was suspended last year, and we are not poised to change policy in that
I believe there's congressional legislation that would have to be fulfilled,
or that the Secretary has to certify certain steps, positive steps, that
the Cambodians have taken, for us to be able to resume aid of that kind.
We're not in a position to do that now, but we're certainly going to be
watching the situation as it unfolds, to see whether this new government
and this new political arrangement moves forward, in the absence of
violence, in the absence of intimidation, working in the interests of the
people in Cambodia who, after all, rather with a lot of faith in democracy,
turned out in large numbers to vote. Their hopes have been expressed, and
we want to see those hopes translated into reality by the new government
there. So we're going to be watching that.
I don't rule anything in or out for the longer run, but it's not something
we're looking at in the immediate short-term.
QUESTION: In the context of Holocaust assets - there's been a lot of
noise about the proposed merger between Deutsche Bank and the Banker's
MR. FOLEY: This doesn't sound to me like a question I'm going to have an
answer for, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, Eizenstat's office in the past has said things about
similar cases, basically, calling for non-intervention in these kinds of
MR. FOLEY: A merger between -
QUESTION: Deutsche Bank and Banker's Trust?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not certainly aware that the State Department from this
podium has commented on such matters previously. I have nothing for you on
QUESTION: Can we stick to that policy?
MR. FOLEY: Across the board - I'd put you out of business, George, if I -
QUESTION: On those issues.
MR. FOLEY: Oh, you're limiting the area.
QUESTION: I think the "no comment" is just fine.
MR. FOLEY: Another editorial from The Associated Press.
QUESTION: Encouraging you not to answer questions. Anyway, yesterday I
asked you about Ocalan and this idea even the EU -
MR. FOLEY: I don't have anything new for you on that.
MR. FOLEY: I'm going to disappoint you, but we're not pronouncing on
that. All I can tell you is that we're working with Italy, with Germany and
with Turkey, in an effort to promote a solution whereby Ocalan is brought
to justice. I'm not here to comment on particular proposals, though.
(The briefing concluded at 1:50 P.M.)